I’VE never seen Braveheart. When it was released in 1995, I looked much younger than the required 15, and by the time I was old enough to rent it from my local Blockbuster the buzz had long passed. Plus, I’d heard the historical details were far from accurate and the accents were terrible.

As the years went by, and Mel Gibson transformed from the blue-eyed heartthrob of Forever Young to the washed-up has-been of Daddy’s Home 2, my inclination to check out his turn as William Wallace diminished further. But this week, with a row blazing over plans to show Braveheart in Glasgow’s George Square as part of an independence rally, I decided it was time to set aside 177 minutes and find out what the fuss is all about. So … here goes.

READ MORE: Row over Braveheart screening at Yes rally

Bagpipes. Hills. Glens. Tweeting birds. Here’s William, watching as his dad and big brother head off to truce talks … only to find a building full of hanging corpses. OK, I can see why this was a 15 certificate and with hindsight I’m glad I was spared the nightmares.

Our young hero wants to go and fight, but he’s too wee and lacking in wit. I have a feeling it’s not going to end well for his relatives ...

Ah, sure enough, the senior Wallaces are now deid, and a blank wee lassie is giving William a thistle when all he wants is a cuddle. Meanwhile, the villainous English King Edward is saying the problem with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots. His plan to correct this is to start raping the women. Jeezo.

MEL HAS ARRIVED. William’s all grown up, and has returned to his old stomping ground to seek vengeance. No, wait, he’s returned to sniff the air, stare at women and take part in stone-throwing contests. No wonder this film’s so long, if he’s more interested in late-night horse rides than getting involved in the “troubles”.

READ MORE: Letters: Spare us the elitist tut-tutting about Braveheart

All of William’s chat-up lines are in foreign tongues but fortunately the beautiful Murron – formerly the blank wee lassie – understands the universal language of pressed flowers and before you know it they’re secretly getting married in a floodlit forest. I don’t know who this actress is, so I’m going to guess things are not going end well for her either.

I didn’t imagine they’d go so badly that she would end up having her face licked by a grotesque old English soldier then, after biting him in the cheek and galloping away, get whacked in the face with a pole, be tied to a post and have her throat cut. Jeezo.

William is understandably raging, but I’m having to stifle a giggle at his slo-mo posing – I can’t tell if he’s surrendering or trying to seduce the baddies. But wait, it’s neither, it’s a diversionary tactic and he’s getting ready to do some clobbering. Bam! Pow! Thwack!

The National:

“He doesn’t even have a knighthood but he fights with passion, and he inspires!” says an awe-struck Robert the Bruce. Meanwhile Edward Jnr, son of the ruthless king, is mincing about with his similarly fashion-conscious pal, and I’ve had to pause to look him up on Wikipedia. It seems there’s some debate about his sexuality, but contrary to the film’s suggestion he fathered plenty of children. I think I see what Gibson was going for here: effeminate, soft-skinned English flouncy boy vs rugged, red-blooded Scottish clobberer. How very 1995 it all feels.

Edward’s unfortunate wife (Sophie Marceau) and her lady-in-waiting are having a confab, and apparently nothing gets the French ladies going than talk of desecrated graves and relocated corpses. “C’est l’amour!” Never mind the politics, this Wallace sounds like a catch (leaving aside the fact that his last bird got jabbed in the face and slashed in the throat).

Ah, here we go. “ARE YOU READY FOR A WAR?” The face paint really brings out Mel’s eyes. He’s rocked up at Stirling Bridge and, despite seeming unable to control his own horse, which is going round in circles, he’s giving it great guns about how they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom. There’s so much violence against horses happening now – my barely-teenage self would have been fleeing the cinema. But I get it: they’re using their wits to make up for their lack of manpower. Pausing to recover from this scene, I’m wondering which 50-odd minutes of this film could possibly be shown in a public square. The illicit romantic horse rides and pre-battle pep talks? The strategy disputes between Wallace and the nobles? What on earth would be the point?

I’m no history buff, to put it mildly, but even I can smell a rat when some conveniently helmeted fighters appear on the English side at Falkirk and Robert The Bruce fails to show up for battle. And lo, here’s the Scooby-Doo moment! He would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for pesky William being so … um … ruggedly handsome? Either way, Bruce is now a goodie and all the treacherous baddies need to be killed in creative fashion.

The National:

“Why do you help me?” Wallace is asking Princess L’Amour. Has she been slipping him secret notes about military threats because she believes the Scots deserves to be free from English tyranny? Nah. “Because of the way you are looking at me now,” she replies, angling for a snog. I’m pausing again to find out whether any of this is true, and I’m startled to discover Princess L’Amour was in fact only three years old when all this was going on. But I suppose the key message of the film – “look how sexy Mel Gibson is” – would have been lost without these scenes.

The end is in sight, and maybe I’ve watched too many extreme horror films but there’s something a bit anticlimactic about this torture scene. If I’d paid to attend that execution I’d be asking for a partial refund, given only one bladed weapon was even deployed. I’m half expecting William’s chums to shoot flaming arrows into the ropes and storm the stage, but no, it isn’t to be. Wallace is dead, and it’s up to the Bruce to finish what he started.

My verdict? It’s an absorbing enough piece of cinema, but as a history lesson it’s clearly lacking and I have to agree with Jack O’Neil, whose letter in Thursday’s National argued that its use as a campaign tool undermines every effort to dispel negative stereotypes about the Yes movement.

READ MORE: Letters – Braveheart screening undermines our efforts

The modern drive for independence isn’t about lifting your kilt up and waving your willy at the English. It’s not about swaggering men rallying the troops behind them to march proudly into battle because they’ve nothing left to lose. It’s certainly not about powerful, violent masculinity triumphing over weak, limp-wristed femininity. This is a film about the past, not the future, in more ways than one.